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Low-Dose Aspirin May Benefit the Brain

February 4, 2013

Do you take a daily baby aspirin to prevent heart disease? It may be good for your brain as well, a new study suggests.

An analysis of elderly Swedish women at high risk for cardiovascular disease found that regularly taking low-dose aspirin slowed decline in memory and thinking skills. Some earlier studies have suggested that taking daily aspirin, often recommended for older people at risk for heart disease, may be good for the brain, though results have been mixed on whether it helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

For the study, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden identified about 700 women over 70, some as old as 92, who were at high risk for having a heart attack or stroke. At the beginning of the study period, none had Alzheimer’s disease or other serious memory problems, and all were in generally good health. The study participants were given a popular memory and thinking skills test called the Mini Mental-State Exam at the study’s start, then again five years later.

Some were taking a regular low dose of aspirin — in the range of 75 to 160 milligrams — and others were not. A typical baby aspirin sold at pharmacies in the United States contains 80 milligrams of the drug, compared to 325 milligrams for a regular aspirin.

After five years, women who had been taking a daily low-dose of aspirin scored higher on cognitive tests then their peers who weren’t taking aspirin. Those who had been taking aspirin at the start of the study period, and who continued to take the drug five years later, scored highest overall. The findings, published in the British medical journal BMJ Open, suggest that aspirin may have protective effects on the aging brain.

While aspirin appeared to help preserve cognitive skills, those taking aspirin did not have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The researchers speculate that this may be because the study period was relatively short, and only 41 of the study participants developed dementia during the five years of the study. Dementia may take years to develop, and five years may not be enough time to detect significant trends in cognitive tests. The authors note that longer follow-up studies are needed to assess the long-term impact of aspirin on brain health and Alzheimer’s risk.

Aspirin is one of the most widely prescribed medicines to prevent heart disease. Earlier studies have looked at the effect of aspirin and similar drugs that ease inflammation on brain health and dementia, but this is one of the first to look at aspirin use in those at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Many people who develop Alzheimer’s disease also show some degree of vascular disease in the brain, which may contribute to the loss of cognitive function. Those having a high cardiovascular risk are more likely to suffer vascular damage in the brain, so drugs like aspirin, which reduce cardiovascular risk, might also delay losses of cognitive function in these individuals.

Inflammation is increasingly implicated as a contributing factor to heart disease as well as Alzheimer’s, so it would make sense that an inflammation-fighter like aspirin may have benefits for the brain. In addition, aspirin thins the blood, which may help to prevent clots in blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain.

But if low-dose aspirin is good for you, is higher-dose aspirin better? Not necessarily, experts warn. Aspirin and similar drugs can cause potentially dangerous side effects, like internal bleeding, especially at higher doses, so the risks may outweigh any benefits. Aspirin, at any dose, should only be taken regularly in consultation with a physician.

By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Source: Silke Kern, Ingmar Skoog, Svante Östling, et al: “Does low-dose acetylsalicylic acid prevent cognitive decline in women with high cardiovascular risk? A 5-year follow-up of a non-demented population-based cohort of Swedish elderly women.” Published online BMJ Open, Oct. 3, 2012

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COMMENTS:


  • Carlos Benita said:

    "I am a 51 year old female that just found out I have Motor Neuron Disease Parkinson's about a year and half, but I have been having signs of it for years, tremors, depression, body weakness. ECT. I honestly don't think my doctor was reading the signs because of my gender and age. A few years ago I had my shoulder lock up on me and I was sent to a P.T since x-rays didn't show any physical damage. My shaking was getting worse and I began falling. Only when my speech became so bad that it brought concern to my dentist was Parkinson's even considered. He phoned my doctor with his concerns about my shaking and balance problems. By this time I was forgoing shots in the back of my neck for back and neck pain to which once again I was sent to a P.T (although x-rays showed no damage) I was told I had a few spurs which were most likely causing the pain. Here I was feeling like my whole body was falling apart and doctor could not find anything wrong, maybe in was all in my head? My doctor even seemed annoyed with me and things just kept progressing and I just kept it to myself, why bother going through testing and them finding nothing? Well, it was after my second P.T called my doctor about the weakness in my legs and arms, by this time I have developed a gait in my walk and I fell more frequently. Only then did my doctor send me to a specialist and it was found that I had Parkinson's, and that I have had it for awhile. I think because I was a woman that my signs and symptoms weren't taken seriously and therefor left untreated for so long,I was taking pramipexole dihydrochloride three times daily, I Was on carbidopa levodopa but only lasted 90 minutes then wore off.I found that none of the current medications worked effective for me.I got tired of using those medication so I decided to apply natural herbs formula that was prescribed to me by my second P.T, i purchase the herbal formula from totalcureherbsfoundation. com, There has been huge progression ever since I start the treatment plan which will last for 15 weeks usage.all the symptoms and sign has begin to disappear .".

  • colin moull said:

    "I think your should lobby for action on this subject please see following for possible action. Dementia in the UK – A self-made disaster Doing too little to late In an ideal world you would treat an incurable but treatable disease at the first symptom, to delay as long as possible the inevitable decline, but, in the UK we ignore the decline and only treat after the patient’s mind is virtually destroyed. We (The NHS) refuse to consider a diagnosis until the patient fails a mini COG test or similar with a score of under 3 out of 5 points. This indicates a mental acuity of substantially under that of a 6 year old which most would agree indicates you have failed to preserve that adult patients mind. A mind functioning under that of a six year old is a person already in need of 24 hour care, already a huge burden on the family, State and medical services. Treatment is normally still refused at that stage until a referral is done for further investigation, this could easily take a further 15 months or so before any treatment is offered. If a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is made than at this stage perhaps 11 years after the first symptoms were noticed then 80% of patients will be put on low dose aspirin to thin the blood and reduce the inflammation that seems to cause most cases of dementia. The UK government refuses to act on this issue as does the NHS. They stick rigidly to a regime that hastens the destruction of patients minds and plunges the country into financial crisis trying to support the hundreds of thousands of prematurely de-capacitated dementia victims. It would save uncountable lives if the ,,,,,,,,,,, condemns the UK’s approach to this disease and encourages early preventative treatment with Aspirin to preserve and extend a patients full functioning period. https://www.scie.org.uk/dementia/symptoms/diagnosis/getting-a-diagnosis.asp https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/low-dose-aspirin-benefit-brain/ https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/mini-cog.pdf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171457/".

  • adam smith said:

    "I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.".

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